Hidden View began from the fodder of my own life: a young woman on a remote Vermont hillside, immersed in a marriage, raising a young child, in love with the landscape. At that time, we were sugaring 1500 taps and heavily involved in selling our syrup at farmers’ markets. I finished the book, then I put it away and had a second daughter. We upped our taps to nearly 2000. Our lives went on.
I sold some essays, had short stories picked up, and yet the book remained in its box. On lists I wrote, among “plant beets and carrots” and “teach Molly to read,” I had “sell Hidden View.” Eventually, I rewrote the novel and began sending it to other writers. Not far from me, across the Lamoille River, the poet David Budbill received my manuscript in the mail and graciously read my pages. At that time, we had no internet at the house, so I used the Hardwick co-op’s tiny café as an office. I hadn’t checked my email for days. My younger daughter and I had been fevery, and I remember sitting with her while she ate yogurt and I drank coffee, thinking how nice it was to join the living world again. It was January. David had sent me an email that began to change my life.
From there, I hooked up with an agent who did little but offer me hope and then frustration. I finally found a rising Vermont indie press, Green Writers Press in Brattleboro. Dede Cummings, the visionary publisher, eventually accepted my book. Again (and here appears my novelist’s love of recurrent themes), I opened this email in the co-op. Yes.
This novel is about Fern Hartshorn, a woman who marries young, moves to an isolated Vermont hillside farm, and begins her adult life. She arrives at this farm through happenstance (in a one-thing-led-to-another kind of life), and then three things change her life: she and her husband are faced with economically losing their cherished farm; she has a child she adores; and she falls in love with her brother-in-law. Hemmed in by her desires, she ponders what course of action to choose. The novel’s Tolstoy epitaph pins the tension: Every human being has been brought into the world according to the will of God. And God created us in such a way that every human being can either save his own soul or destroy it. As the two brothers tussle over the farm’s ownership, and Fern and Lucien circle each other, the three main characters struggle with the braided cords of creation and destruction as they determine their own lives.
In the end, while Hidden View gathered pieces of my life – green yarn, a young child, lust and lonely nights beneath the moon – the book became its own entity, an artful creature unto its own. Literature is a complex lens to view our own lives. How do we make the decisions we do? Do we live out the consequences of our choices? And how do we cherish or denigrate what matters most to us?
Hidden View is suffused with philosophical questing, but the book doesn’t dwell in the ethereal. A mother of young children, Fern lives in the world of tangible things: childbirth, making dinner and folding clothes, working the farm’s stony soil while at the same time keeping her eyes on the possible horizon.